Detailed study of collagen, vasculature, and innervation in the human cardiac conduction system

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Background: The cardiac conduction system (CCS) creates and propagates electrical signals generating the heartbeat. This study aimed to assess the collagen content, vasculature, and innervation in the human sinoatrial and atrioventricular CCS, and surrounding tissue. Materials and methods: Ten sinoatrial and 17 atrioventricular CCS samples were collected from 17 adult human autopsied hearts. Masson trichrome stain was used to examine collagen, cardiomyocytes, and fat proportions. Immunohistochemically, vessels and lymphatics were studied by CD31 (pan-endothelial marker) and D2-40 (lymphatic endothelium marker) antibodies. General nerve densities were assessed by S100, while sympathetic nerves were studied using tyrosine hydroxylase, parasympathetic nerves with choline acetyltransferase, and GAP43 (neural growth marker) antibodies looked at these components. All components were quantified with QuPath software (Queens University, Belfast, Northern Ireland). Results: Interstitial collagen was more than two times higher in the sinoatrial vs. atrioventricular CCS (55% vs. 22%). The fat content was 6.3% in the sinoatrial CCS and 6.5% in the atrioventricular CCS. The lymphatic vessel density was increased in the sinoatrial and atrioventricular CCS compared to the surrounding tissue and was lower in the sinoatrial vs. atrioventricular CCS (P=.043). The overall vasculature density did not differ between the SA and AV CCS. The overall innervation and neural growth densities were significantly increased in the CCS compared to the surrounding tissue. The overall innervation was higher in the atrial vs. ventricular CCS (P=.018). The neural growth was higher in the atrial vs. ventricular CCS (P=.018). The sympathetic neural supply was dominant in all the studied regions with the highest density in the sinoatrial CCS. Conclusions: Our results provide new insights into the unique morphology of the human CCS collagen, fat, vasculature, and innervation. A deeper understanding of the CCS anatomical components and morphologic substrates’ role will help in elucidating the causes of cardiac arrhythmias and provide a basis for further therapeutic interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107603
Number of pages11
Issue numberMarch-April
Early online dateDec 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2024
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Autonomic innervation
  • Blood vessels
  • Human cardiac conduction system
  • Interstitial collagen
  • Lymphatic vessels
  • Morphometry

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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